Weekly Roundup: GoDaddy Can Phish Off Edition

It was a Christmas dream come true. Right before the holiday, GoDaddy sent all of its employees the following email:

Though we cannot celebrate together during our annual Holiday Party, we want to show our appreciation and share a $650 one-time Holiday bonus!… To ensure that you receive your one-time bonus in time for the Holidays, please select your location and fill in the details by Friday, December 18th.

Over 500 of them promptly clicked through, no doubt thrilled at the prospect of additional help at a time when their spouses or other family members were likely suffering from uncertain employment or no work at all.

They didn’t get a bonus. Instead, they got a written warning that they had fallen afoul of a so-called “phishing” message created by GoDaddy security staff to test awareness of identity theft via fraudulent email, and a notification that they had all been re-enrolled in a computer security course.

Merry Christmas! But I’ve seen (and done) worse…

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Weekly Roundup: You May Not Be Interested In Racism But It Is Interested In You Edition

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I don’t devote much thought to (what we are supposed to call) COVID-19. My wife and son are younger than I am and they are in good physical shape, so the risk for them is low. I’m morbidly obese, all but sedentary, and I have the eating habits of a raccoon, but I’ve also proved quite impossible to kill, so there you go. I am obsessive about my vitamins, and since Vitamin D levels appear to matter that’s a good thing.

On the other hand, COVID-19 is tremendously interesting to me as a lens through which to observe the modern idiocracy/kleptocracy/kakistocracy formerly known as the United States. The disease is almost meaningless in and of itself; it has increased the annual death rate in the United States by about twelve percent, which is not great but not exactly the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 300,000 people in just two months across a country with a quarter of today’s population. Rather, it is the reaction to the disease that fascinates. The hypocrisy and naked urge to power given full faith and credit by the media, as discussed at Up In The Valley. The irony of our putative national search for fascists to attack — Punch A Nazi Today, Everyone, And “Nazi” Can Mean Anything You Want It To Mean! — while Amazon and the banks and the government act in literal lockstep, which, for those of you who got your education from a public school, is how fascism actually worked. We are being told that the government can’t make you take the vaccine, but that every corporation in the United States has simultaneously decided you’ll need it in order to do business with them. This is Phase II of Corporations Enforce Unwritten Law On Behalf Of The Government; Phase I was when the corporations decided that “hate speech” was adequate grounds to deny you everything from a bank account to a meal at a restaurant.

Oh yeah, about that vaccine: who gets it first?

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Weekly Roundup: de Sade Edition

It’s New Used Luxury Car Month here at Riverside Green! No sooner does brother Bark take delivery of his pre-loved G80 than I have to one-up him with this very fine 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis LS Coupe! This Marquis will be doubly familiar to TTAC readers of yore: the Mehtas took delivery of it from an estate sale in 2010, just after I wrote the story of a misspent Summer of ’89 in my own 1980 Marquis Brougham Coupe.

After ten years of Sajeev’s care and improvements, the “MGM” runs fairly well, although it needs a dozen small fixes from power windows (they don’t) to fuel gauge (permanently on a pessimistic “E”) to transmission selector (which is one letter off… most of the time). Unlike Bark’s Thrifty-Six G80, the Grand Marquis has a full five (er, 4.9) liters of V-8 power, although said power is something like 42% of what the HTRAC Hyundai puts to the wheels.

Here’s the interesting part, however: after eleven years, I have finally found a car that genuinely piques my son’s interest.

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Weekly Roundup: Flyin’ Low And Feelin’ Less Mean Edition

As the constant reader will recall, at the very end of September I broke my right fibula and ripped a ligament off the inside of my ankle riding BMX trails in Austin, TX before the press preview of the Rolls-Royce Ghost. I stayed two additional days in Austin to get my drive completed and to visit my old friend Robert Farago before coming home for corrective surgery in the first week of October.

My cast came off three weeks ago and I’ve been trying to rehab the ankle and leg a bit. Yesterday I went outside to ride a bicycle for the first time. With a little encouragement from my son I was able to put some motion into said bike. While I have some reduced range of motion, it’s all on the “up” end. I can point down as well as any ballerina (well, any ballerina of my size, anyway) which means I can jump a bike. So I tried about ten hops, eventually getting up to about an 18-inch gap between ground and tire. The world record for bunnyhopping a BMX bike is 42 inches, most pros can do 30-36 inches easily, and prior to this injury I was probably capable of hitting 24 on a good day — but I will not pretend I am not enthusiastic that I can pull 280 pounds of bike and rider this far off the ground on a withered calf muscle and a recently-repaired joint.

Also, as Ted Williams said in the famous anecdote about hitting modern pitching, I’m 49 years old.

So this is all good news. And it’s been instructive for me to consider how sour I’ve been over the past two months, entirely as a result of not being able to ride.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Obviously No Americans Want A $156,000/Year Job Edition

Well, folks, the hits from HITLER DRUMPF just keep coming. His latest attack on American democracy is a sick and racist weaponizing of the DOJ against noted social benefactor Mark Zuckberg & Co., seeking penalties and damages for the totally normal business practice of deliberately concealing the existence of over 2,600 (two thousand, six hundred) jobs on American soil from American citizens so that said jobs could be used to sponsor new green card permanent residents from India.

Facebook’s completely reasonable defense was that no American citizen wanted these jobs. And why would they? The average salary for these 2,600 jobs was a pathetic $156,000 a year. So naturally Zuck had to give them to immigrants, who are always willing to get the job done.

Can you believe that DRUMPF is objecting to this?

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: When I Rose To Be Ossified Edition

I turned 49 a couple of weeks ago. On the face of it, this seems ridiculous. At this age, my grandfather was wrapping up his career and preparing to retire nice and early in his mid-fifties. When my father was forty-nine years old, he was just a half-decade away from heading to Hilton Head and concentrating on golf. They were adults, y’know? They knew who they were and where they were going. I didn’t observe any significant change in them after this age. (Not much before, either, to be honest.)

Your humble author, on the other hand, is far from being settled in any sense. I have no idea where I’m going to live in a few years. Don’t know what job I’ll be working, whether I will be richer or poorer. I might save up and buy my destination race car, a Radical SR8 — or I might sell all the race cars and never think about that again. Could build a new house, or I could live in a condo. No matter what happens, I still expect to be: intemperate, easily distracted, riding children’s bicycles, playing great guitars badly, continually and heartlessly tortured by the basest and most juvenile of desires.

Not a grown-up, in other words. And yet I can dimly perceive the edge of a certain… process… going on in my mind. The same way that one’s near-field vision is just great until it isn’t — but you knew it was going bad nevertheless. Something terrible is happening to me. Perhaps it’s accelerated by this oh-so-manufactured crisis all around us, perhaps not. Can’t say. Anyway. What’s going on is this: I’m losing what we will, for lack of a better phrase, call emotional elasticity.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Act Fast If You Want The Big D Edition

Well, that escalated quickly. This past Tuesday morning I drove two hilariously expensive variants of the Dodge Durango — the 475-horsepower, 6.4-liter SRT and 710-horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat — around Carolina Motorsports Park. The SRT is about sixty-four grand, while the Hellcat starts at eighty. These are fully-equipped, viciously quick unibody SUVs with optional features like the same “forged carbon” interior pieces one would find in a well-equipped Lamborghini Huracan. I can’t discuss the Hellcat’s driving characteristics yet, but the “plain” SRT would give a lot of smallbore club racers a run for their money around a track, doubly so if you had real tires on the thing instead of high-load-rated sport-utility rubber on there.

Just fifteen years ago, the “D”, as marque enthusiasts call it, was nothing more than a parts-bin special, basically a Dakota pickup with minivan taillights. Now it’s a credible unibody alternative to hyper-speed German speedsters from AMG and BMW M, loaded throughout with soft-touch interior materials, widescreen infotainment, and large-pizza-sized brake rotors. The Hellcat, in particular, is capable of easily slaying the BMW X5M at a $25,000 discount.

As a party trick, the biggest D really satisfies. Unfortunately, the party won’t last for long.

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Weekly Roundup: In Which The Author Is Revealed To Have Missed Yet Another Slim Chance To Join Guns N’ Roses Edition

True story: The man who would eventually call himself W. Axl Rose really, really, really admired Stephen Pearcy. You know, the guy who founded Ratt. Axl desperately wanted to emulate Pearcy, and he wanted his bands to sound like Ratt. Thankfully, he didn’t get his wish. Appetite For Destruction is to Ratt’s Invasion Of Your Privacy as A Love Supreme is to Sammy Davis Jr. Sings The Big Ones For Young Lovers, and I don’t just say that because the G n’ R debut LP is personally important to me. Which is not to say that there isn’t an obvious line to be drawn through the various glam-rock bands to Appetite. One benefit of hindsight is that you can see overarching trends which were overshadowed in period by the differences between the works in question. Almost nothing is really sui generis, particularly in music.

I imagine that people will still be listening to G n’R long after they forget about Ratt, the same way we’ve long since discarded the most popular jazz and rock musicians of the Fifties and Sixties in exchange for a relatively small “curated” selection of work. Led Zeppelin is a much bigger part of Seventies Rock(tm) today than they ever were in the Seventies; go read a Billboard chart if you don’t believe me. This slimming-down of Eighties Rock has already happened to some degree, which is why W. Axl can pack a stadium with almost any group of people he cares to name “Guns N’ Roses” while Stephen Pearcy is playing sports bars during the day. Legally and to some extent practically, G n” R is whatever Axl says it is.

Which leads to a question: Other than Axl, who is the longest-serving member of Guns N’ Roses? Hint, albeit a horribly obscure one: that’s his guitar pictured above.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: November Surprise And The Day The Masks All Slipped Edition

Praise be to Pfizer, the vaccine is here. It’s 90% effective! Given that COVID-19 only appears to affect about one percent of people anyway, one wonders if perhaps this vaccine actually increases your chance of getting it. Don’t assume the math doesn’t actually work that way. This country has entered a hall of mirrors now, or perhaps it’s that horrifying sense of paranoid disconnection from reality associated with a Maureen Dowd level of marijuana edible consumption. You can’t trust anything you read. Trump said there was a vaccine coming; the media rushed to “debunk” this irresponsible claim. But there was a vaccine coming. It just wasn’t going to be ready until we had a President who doesn’t ask awkward questions about our absolute dependence on India and China for low-quality, high-profit pharmaceuticals.

If, indeed, we have that President. Your mileage might still vary. But you would’t know it from reading social media, because the past twelve days or so have witnessed an unprecedented and terrifying display of power on the part of Silicon Valley — one that should upset the Molotov-throwing Antifa soldiers as much as it worries the “Farmers For Trump”.

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Weekly Roundup: She’s Always Buzzing Just Like… Edition

What a long, strange trip this has been… and it’s not over. One of my readers put his one-owner ’98 ACR Coupe on eBay back in, uh, February. I was pretty much the only bidder. Then we all had to sit around and flatten the curve a bit… which didn’t help anyone but did keep me from going to Atlanta to pick up the car. Finally, another one of my readers offered to finish the transaction of my behalf. Which involved getting a tow truck. Well, it involved getting three tow trucks because the first two backed out with zero notice.

So the Neon now has a temporary Georgia home while I make plans to go get it. My hopes are that I will repaint the car — it’s a Belvidere Plymouth, the clearcoat was finished before the bumper-to-bumper warranty expired — and get it fixed up to the point where it more or less feels like a new 1998 Neon ACR coupe. It would be a waste to turn it into a race car, of course, and I already have a SCCA/NASA-legal Neon to race.

Something tells me that it will be harder to find a survivor/restored first-gen Neon in ten years than it will be to find a Ferrari 250GTO. Sadly, that doesn’t mean it will be worth anything to anyone.

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